Professor Elliott Published in Nature Communications: Enzymatic Discovery Cools a ‘Hot’ Intermediary

March 7th, 2019 in Elliott, Sean, Front Page, Grants, NIH, Publications, Recognition, Research

Enzymatic Discovery Cools a ‘Hot’ Intermediary

In the world around us enzymes perform the wizardry of allowing reactions that should occur, to do so in a timely fashion. Enzymes that transform hydrogen peroxide often generate a highly reactive, ‘hot’ intermediate along the way, which will transform another molecule in a startling feat of chemistry. In a recent research study a team from Boston University, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University has found that one such reactant generated by a bacterial enzyme can be ‘cooler’ than thought previously.

In the March 7, 2019, Nature Communications report, the team has discovered a new class of peroxide-transforming enzyme that is found widely in bacterial organisms. Through their studies of one family member, called BthA, they have learned that the ‘hot’ intermediates produced by enzymes like BthA have diverse properties, which will hopefully lead to further discoveries in biological chemistry.

Enzymes like BthA are referred to as diheme peroxidases, which make use of two natural heme iron cofactors that talk to each other, in terms of how they share their own electrons. Previous studies have found that enzymes like BthA produce highly reactive states where both irons share electron via pathway provided by a conserved amino acid residue, called Tryptophan. 

By combining methods of biochemistry, electrochemisty and spectroscopy, Kimberly Rizzolo and Prof. Sean Elliott (Boston University) worked with Andrew Weitz and Prof. Michael Hendrich (CMU) using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance and Mössbauer spectroscopies in order to demonstrate that BthA would produce the same fierce oxidant that has been reported. Stunningly, they found that the ‘hot’ state persists for over an hour, instead of rapidly quenching like something reactive should.

Extending these efforts with X-ray crystallography, the BU team paired with Steve Cohen and Prof. Catherine L. Drennan (MIT/HHMI) to solve the structure of BthA. Through that molecular view,, it is clear that Nature has changed the way in which the two heme irons of BthA talk to one another, substituting the native Tryptophan for a different amino acid residue. That change lets the chemical equivalent of napalm persist in the enzyme, until it is quenched.

“The work illustrates how if we look at the microbial world, enzyme continue to surprise us with how inventive they can be with chemical transformations,” says Sean Elliott. “If we can understanding the wiring, we’ll be able to re-wire these catalysts to do the reactions we need them for.”

Further Information:  The research was funded by the National Institutes for Health (National Institute for General Medical Sciences), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the Department of Energy.

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Sean J. Elliott, elliott @ bu.edu, 617-358-2816, Boston University.

PUBLICATION: Rizzolo K, Cohen SE, Weitz AC, López Muñoz MM, Hendrich MP, Drennan CL, Elliott SJ.  A widely distributed diheme enzyme from Burkholderia that displays an atypically stable bis-Fe(IV) state”, Nature Communications, 7 March, 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09020-4.

EMBARGO INFORMATION: The manuscript is currently under embargo by Nature Communications, the publication date is 7 March 2019.

PUBLICATION LINK: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09020-4

 

BU Chemistry NSF-REU Program Awarded Three-Year Renewal of Funding

January 29th, 2019 in Doerrer, Linda, Faculty, Front Page, Grants, Grants & Funding, NSF, Outreach, REU, Snyder, John, Teaching, Uncategorized, Undergraduate

2018 Chemistry REU Poster Presentations

BU Chemistry is pleased to announce a three-year renewal of funding for our NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program.  This summer program, hosted by the Chemistry Department, provides students from primarily undergraduate institutions with opportunities to work in advanced research laboratories. Of the 33 students who participated in the program over the past three years, 91% came from underrepresented minority groups, better than 60% were women, and almost 45% came from community colleges. Many of them co-authored peer-reviewed publications, presented their findings at conferences, and/or decided to attend graduate school, including BU. Another measure of the program’s success is its ever-expanding pool of applicants, with over 600 applications received for the summer 2018 program alone.

Chemistry would like to give special recognition to the efforts of Professors  Linda Doerrer, Principal Investigator (PI), and ,John Snyder, co-PI, and Chemistry Departments Proposal Development Administrator Daniel Hauck, whose hard work and commitment to the program made this renewal possible.

Due to a change in the National Science Foundation’s funding periods, the Chemistry Department will not be hosting REU students for the Summer of 2019. The program will be active again in the Summer 2020.  For more information, including the application process, visit the BU Chemistry REU.

 

Professor Kamenetska Awarded Prestigious 3 Year Air Force Young Investigator Research Program Grant

December 13th, 2018 in Award, BUWIC, Faculty, Fundraising, Grants, Grants & Funding, Recognition, Research

We are excited to announce that the Boston University Chemistry Department’s newest faculty member, Professor Maria Kamenetska, was recently awarded an Air Force Young Investigator Research Program Grant (AFOSR-YIP) for her novel work on robust DNA conductance and force signatures for detecting protein binding to DNA with base-pair resolution.

With the creation of the BU HUB educational requirements, Boston University has committed to a fully integrated and interdisciplinary approach to higher education. Dr. Kamenetska, who goes by Masha, holds a joint appointment between the Chemistry and Physics departments and is also a member of our Materials Science & Engineering Department. Masha’s joint appointment and her truly interdisciplinary research are an excellent example of BU’s commitment to educational integration.

The AFOSR-YIP funded project, which will support her work and that of 2 graduate students, focuses on using DNA conductivity as a sensor for DNA-protein interactions. The innovative research will first investigate the degree of electron transfer as a function of binding conformation of DNA between metal electrodes to help address some of the debates in the literature regarding electron transport in DNA. She and her research group will use this information to correlate the specific ways that DNA constructs bind in the junction and conduct current, which will create a unique conductance signature of various conformations of the DNA molecule in the junction; this will allow her and her research group to probe protein binding to specific base-pairs of that molecule. The application of this technique will be used to investigate the basic unit of Chromatin—known as the nucleosome—which controls the access of DNA for transcription and thus plays a key role in gene regulation.

Dr. Kamenetska says this about the award and the project “I am grateful to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for this opportunity. With their support, I look forward to developing a deeper understanding of electron transport properties of DNA and using this knowledge to establish novel single molecule techniques for probing structure-function relationships in biology and material science.”

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Advances in Organic Electronics Research Symposium

November 20th, 2018 in Front Page, Seminars

Dear all,

I’d like to invite you to join the Jeffries-EL group at the Advances in Organic Electronics Research Symposium on Monday 26th November in SCI 113. The symposium begins at 3 pm with light refreshments in SCI 103, before the first talk at 3.30 pm. We have two brilliant speakers lined up (please see below), so it should be a great afternoon.

Department of Chemistry 2017-2018 AY Outstanding Student Awards

August 30th, 2018 in Award, Department, Elliott, Sean, Faculty, Front Page, Graduate, Keyes, Tom, Liu, Pinghua, Recognition, Students, Teaching, Whitty, Adrian

We were pleased to announce the Department of Chemistry student award winners for the 2017-2018 academic year at the Orientation BBQ. For those who may have missed it, here are the award winners.

 

Sugata Ray Memorial Award for International Students: Nathchar Naowarojna (Liu Lab)

This award was established by the Ray family in memory of their son, Sugata Ray, a former graduate student in the Chemistry Department, to recognize an international Ph.D. candidate each year who excels in his or her graduate studies. Research, academic performance, teaching, and service contributions to the Department are all considered in selection of the awardee.

Professor Liu writes, “Can has demonstrated her potential to thrive in the academic environment and greatly contribute to the field of natural product biosynthesis and enzymology. Her skills and knowledge in research, and dedication to mentorship make her an exceptionally qualified nominee.” She has authored or contributed to an impressive number of publications, and demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to undergraduate mentoring through her teaching assignments and undergraduate research supervising.

 

Lichtin Award for Research: David Stelter (Keyes)

This award was established in honor of Norman Lichtin, a distinguished research scientist and former Chair of the Chemistry Department. The award recognizes students that are distinguished by their exceptional contributions to chemical research in their doctoral studies. 

Professor Keyes writes, “David is a wonderful student, one of my best ever. Despite having to teach almost full time he has achieved significant research results, and never lost his enthusiasm, while also being a joy to have as a TF.” David is first author on two papers, contributed to two more, and has a large body of results to write up and exciting work in progress.

 

Feldman Award: Lindsey Walker (Elliott Lab)

The Feldman Fund was established by the Feldman family to memorialize Julius Feldman, who served for many years as Associate Chairman of the Chemistry Department and who took a special interest in the welfare of graduate students. The Feldman Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in research, teaching or service.

Lindsey is a fifth year student in the Elliott Lab who has not only made significant and impressive research contributions but is a great communicator of science, and stands out as an excellent leader.

Professor Elliott writes, “Lindsey is a sharp, devoted, creative and highly driven student, who is well on her way to being a successful scientific leader. She is a talented researcher who is motivated by a concern for the environment, and a desire to use electrochemistry as a functional tool to improve society. She is a wonderful student, and I am very lucky to have her in my lab.”

 

Departmental Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research: Lauren Viarengo (Whitty Lab)

Professor Whitty writes, “Lauren has a strong intellect and is exceptionally diligent and conscientious in everything she does. Lauren is also highly sought after as a Teaching Fellow, being very conscientious and having excellent interpersonal and communication skills. But what really sets her apart is her fearlessness in taking on new research challenges, and her exceptional drive. I believe she serves as an example of everything we look for in our very best graduate students, and is an ideal candidate for a graduate student award to recognize her extraordinary capabilities and efforts.”

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to all of our award winners!

 

 

2018 GROW (Greater Boston Research Opportunities for young Women) Poster Session

August 11th, 2018 in Award, Department, Faculty, Front Page, Grants, Grants & Funding, NSF, Outreach, Perlstein, Deborah, Recognition, Research, Teaching

As they finished out the sixth and final week of the 2018 GROW (Greater Boston Research Opportunities for Young Women) program, the 12 summer interns present their capstone to the six weeks of research conducted during a Poster Session held on Friday, August 10th in the Science Metcalf Building Lounge located on the first floor from 2:00 – 4:00 PM.

LERNet was created in 1998 to provide programming for K-12 students interested in pursuing the STEM fields and to encourage teacher development. In recent years, Brossman says, she has become more focused on young women, because they face a gender imbalance in STEM fields. The GROW program came into being this year after Deborah Perlstein, a CAS assistant professor of chemistry, came to Brossman looking for ways to broaden the impact of a research project so that it would satisfy a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant requirement. After her project was funded for one student, they decided to go further.

“For young women interested in careers in math and science, it’s really important for them to have an opportunity to get in lab and see what that’s like,” says Perlstein. “It’s also important for them to have the opportunity to see some (female) role models. That was important to me in choosing my career path.

”Brossman and Perlstein put together a program with funding from sources including Vertex, Pfizer, and other companies; LERNet; the chemistry and biology departments; CAS; BU’s ARROWS (Advance, Recruit, Retain & Organize Women in STEM);  and existing NSF grants, all adding up to about $30,000. Despite a late posting of the application, in April, some 60 rising juniors and seniors from Greater Boston high schools applied. A dozen students were placed in BU chemistry and biology labs and assigned research projects and graduate student or post-doc mentors.

“I wanted to create an accessible program for local students who may not be able to afford some of the existing programs or who needed to work during the summer,” Brossman says. “We wanted to give the students a stipend so we could eliminate any financial barriers to participation.”

Here are some photos from this years Poster Session:

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Dr. Malika Jeffries-EL named a 2018 American Chemical Society (ACS) Fellow

August 8th, 2018 in ACS, Award, BUWIC, Front Page, Jeffries-EL Malika, Recognition, Uncategorized

Dr. Malika Jeffries-EL, 2018 ACS Fellow

We are proud to announce that Professor Malika Jeffries-EL has been named one of the 2018 ACS Fellows. The purpose of the ACS Fellows Program is to recognize and honor members of the American Chemical Society for their outstanding achievements in and contributions to the science and the profession and for their equally exemplary service to the Society. The ACS Fellows Program uniquely recognizes a different standard of achievement and service.  Specifically, the Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACSF) designation is awarded to a member who, in some capacity, has made exceptional contributions to the science or profession and has provided excellent volunteer service to the ACS community.

Dr. Malika Jeffries-EL and her research group focuses her research interests on the development of organic semiconductors–materials that combine the processing properties of polymers with the electronic properties of semiconductors. Prior to joining the Department of Chemistry in 2016 she was as Associate Professor at Iowa State University, most recently serving as a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT. She has been honored twice previously by the ACS with an ACS Women Chemist Committee Rising Star award in 2012 and a Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences in 2015.

 

Dr. Jeffries-EL has consistently been an active member of ACS having served on the editorial advisory boards for Macromolecules and Chemical and Engineering News. She has served in several activities within the American Chemical Society including the advisory board for the Women Chemist of Color Program, executive member of the Division of Organic Chemistry, Program co-chair for the Polymer division, member of the Society Committee on Education and councilor for the Ames local section. She is currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Materials Chemistry C, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

 

Professor Malika Jeffries-EL will be celebrated as an ACS Fellow during the 256th National ACS Meeting and Exposition’s induction ceremony on Monday, August 20, 2018, at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, Grand Ballroom, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

 

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Dr. Morton Z. Hoffman is the 2018 recipient of The Zaida C. Morales Martinez Prize for Outstanding Mentoring of ACS Scholars

August 8th, 2018 in ACS, Award, Emeriti, Faculty, Front Page, Hoffman, Morton, Recognition, Teaching

Professor Emeritus Dr. Morton Z. Hoffman

Dr. Morton Z. Hoffman, Professor Emeritus in the Chemistry Department of Boston University, is this years recipient of The Zaida C. Morales Martinez Prize for Outstanding Mentoring of ACS Scholars. This prize was initiated by Dr. Robert L. Lichter and his wife Diane Scott Lichter with a grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. The annual $1,000 prize recognizes individuals who have done an exemplary job in mentoring students in the ACS Scholars Program. It is named in honor of Ms. Morales-Martinez, the mentoring consultant for the ACS Scholars Program, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Scholars Program and other initiatives to address the need to increase the presence and participation of underrepresented minorities in chemical science.

A native of New York City, Mort Hoffman attended Hunter College and received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan. He spent a year as a postdoctoral research associate at Sheffield University in England before joining the chemistry faculty of Boston University in 1961. His research focused on the photophysics and photochemistry of transition-metal coordination compounds, with an emphasis on the fast kinetics of excited-state electron-transfer and ligand-labilization processes. Supported over the years by NIH, NSF, DOE and DOD, his research expanded to the conversion and storage of solar energy and the use of nanosecond pulsed-laser techniques to probe excited-state behavior. He also collaborated with faculty, senior scholars, and scientists from Italy, France, Germany, Greece, England, Israel, and Japan. He has authored over 200 articles and book chapters, of which undergraduates serve as coauthors on 23 and graduate students on 37.

Over the course of Dr. Hoffman’s career, 40 students have worked with him as a mentor and coach, and 20 ACS Scholars developed mentoring relationships with him. Many of these students have transitioned into industry, health care, law, and education careers since then. Dr. Hoffman taught a number of undergraduate and graduate courses, including general, physical and analytical chemistry, chemical kinetics, photochemistry, and radiation chemistry. Remembered by tens of thousands of students for his theatrical lecturing style, dramatic chemical demonstrations, innovative pedagogies, and outrageous jokes and puns, he was honored in 1994 with the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Boston University, the Catalyst Award for Teaching Excellence from the American Chemistry Council in 2002, the John A. Timm Award for Encouraging Young People to Study Chemistry from the New England Association of Chemistry Teachers (NEACT) in 2003, and the James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the Northeastern Section of the ACS (NESACS) in 2005. He received the ACS Volunteer Service Award in 2007 and the Distinguished Contribution to Chemistry Education Award from IUPAC in 2014. He was named a Fellow of AAAS in 1992, a Fellow of ACS in 2009, and a Fellow of IUPAC in 2014.

Since his retirement in 2005, he has continued work with B.U. International Programs in the development and maintenance of science study-abroad programs in Dresden (Germany), Grenoble (France), and Madrid (Spain).

Dr. Hoffman has been very active at the local, regional, and national levels of ACS. He served as Chair of NESACS in 2002, Chair of CHED in 2005, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeast Region, Inc. He represents NESACS on ACS Council, was a member of SOCED and the Senior Chemists Committee, and is currently on the International Activities Committee. Internationally, he was appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to serve as the U.S. National Representative to the Committee on Chemistry Education of IUPAC. He has served as Treasurer of the Malta Conferences Foundation since its incorporation in 2011 as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

For information on contributing to this award or to become a mentor in the ACS Scholars Program, call 202-872-6250 or 1-800-227-5558, ext. 6250, or email scholars@acs.org.

BU Chemistry’s symposium at the 2018 Biennial Conference on Chemical Education

August 6th, 2018 in Abrams, Binyomin, Conference, Front Page, PFF, Recognition, Teaching

Professor Rosina Georgiadis and Master Lecturer Binyomin Abrams co-chaired a full day symposium entitled “Teaching Transferable Skills in the Chemistry Laboratory Curriculum: Real Research, Real Training” on August 1, 2018 at the 25th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE2018), hosted by the University of Notre Dame.

The morning session showcased the work of two former BU Chemistry Postdoctoral Faculty Fellows (PFFs) now known as Postdoctoral Associates/Lecturers (PAL’s) John Miecznikowski (Fairfield University) and Matthew Worden (UT Austin). Also speaking in the morning was our Biochemistry Lecturer Dr. Didem Vardar-Ulu, who was recently awarded a Blended Learning Challenge Fellowship. Dr. Vardar-Ulu spoke on ”Ensuring a successful transition from being a chemistry student to a professional chemist: Redesigning an introductory biochemistry laboratory curriculum for chemistry majors with a guided focus on transferable skills.”  Professor Rosina Georgiadis, who was most recently awarded a BU Faculty Fellowship in 2016, and current PFF Kristina Streu ended the morning session with back-to-back talks on new cloud-enabled training for teaching analytical instrumental laboratory skills. Their talks were entitled: “Virtual machines: A new way to teach transferable skills in the advanced undergraduate laboratory” and “Teaching instrumentation with virtual machines: Case study and demonstration.”

The afternoon session showcased the Chemistry department’s CH111/CH112 writing program in a talk by Dr. Abrams entitled “Stop writing/teaching lab reports: integrating authentic research-based writing into quantitative analysis courses”.  Dr. Abrams also presented a paper in the symposium titled “How Do We Know That?” and Dr. Vardar-Ulu gave a talk “Can blended instruction provide a customized biochemistry teaching laboratory experience?” in a symposium focused on biochemistry laboratory instruction.

 

 

 

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Karen Allen featured in C&EN

June 1st, 2018 in Uncategorized

Model of PglC crystal structure sitting in a cell membrane. Bent α-helix (blue) reaches halfway into the membrane lipid bilayer.

Model of PglC crystal structure sitting in a cell membrane. Bent α-helix (blue) reaches halfway into the membrane lipid bilayer.

Professor Karen Allen‘s work with Dr. Barbara Imperiali of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and their research groups work on the 2.7-Å-resolution crystal structure of a phosphoglycosyl transferase called PglC were featured in C&EN Structural Biology on May 23rd, 2018.

As Co-PI on a National Institute of Health grant, Dr. Allen and Dr. Imperiali’s work on PglC has allowed them to uncover the enzyme’s unique mechanism, which permits hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules to interact without ever having to leave their natural environments. 

Read more about their research here.